Childhood obesity in the UK is at crisis point. Nearly one in twenty year 6 pupils require medical intervention as a result of obesity. One in five children enter primary school already obese and a staggering two out of three end their last primary term obese.
The requirements of schools when covering food and nutrition are quite limited. Despite the knowledge that children who learn to cook early on tend to grow up to eat healthier than those who have not. The guidance for schools is delivered as part of the design and technology aspects of the curriculum and the goals are; Children are required to know "where food comes from" in the first couple of years at primary. At secondary level the teaching should include elements to educate kids on "understanding and applying the principles of a healthy and varied diet." and "prepare and cook a variety of predominantly savoury dishes using a range of cooking techniques."
Despite the secondary school guidance being quite specific very few schools are geared up to teach kids hands on cooking. They lack the resources from equipment, funds for ingredients and a safe learning space for cooking with appropriately trained topic specific educators.
A recent study of 1000 children by Zanussi illustrates how many children are left ignorant of some of the basics. For instance one in three children surveyed struggled to identify that the tuna in a sandwich comes from a fish. Perhaps even more disturbingly one in ten children surveyed believed eggs came from cows.
A scary reflection of the limited time we as a nation spend at home and in school educating our children about the world around them including food and its source.
The survey was produced by Zanussi to promote their new relationship with food writer, Amanda Grant's Cook School. The team have joined together to deliver a pilot scheme which works with primary school kids to teach them the skills they need to create healthy balanced meals.
The sessions can be held in school cafeterias. The session leaders talk to children about different foods they may be unfamiliar with and allow them to get hands on creating foods such as falafel and letting the kids get hands on with sticky, smelly and differently textured ingredients to inspire some retention and enthusiasm for the subject which seems to come easily once the kids get stuck in.
The telegraphs Sally Peck wrote about a session she attended and observed enthusiastic reactions from the kids participating in the sessions.
“It’s like playing with sand!”
“Disgusting... but nice!”
“I feel like I'm on ?Great British Bake Off!”
“I want to be a vegetarian, because I like animals, but I've never tried falafel.”
“I've never had it either, but it smells delicious.”
Grant and Zanussi’s Cook School aims to be available to at least 30 schools and 30,000 children nationwide by the end of next year.
Grant talks about how children emulate each other so it’s healthy to see each other trying new foods and also to foster independence by getting them to make their own meals without an adult to step in and take over.
Grant also came out with another stellar piece of advice for parents of young children suggesting that kids be encouraged to have foods of different colours on their plate for each meal.
“We’re not preaching; we’re equipping them with cheap recipes to make at home; a child learning to grate safely, how to chop garlic, is helpful rather than a hindrance.” - Grant
Cook School is a nationwide, not-for-profit organisation helping children to understand food & teaching children to cook. Children inspiring children. They are going to make a free newsletter available to families and you can sign up to it and learn more about how you could get involved right here.
Chief medical officer says ban snack culture. [Telegraph]